There are three types of lists:
- Bulleted lists for unordered items
- Numbered lists for ordered items
- Embedded lists for items within a sentence
Here are some tips when creating lists:
- Keep list items parallel
- Start numbered lists with a command (imperative verb)
- Consistently punctuate by using appropriate sentence + punctuation within the list (periods for full sentences, etc.)
- For numbered lists in markdown, only use 1 as your number. Since markdown auto-creates the numbering, you could get into a situation where you remove a step and the markdown no longer matches the output.
Bullet points help the reader’s eye focus on a list of important elements.
However, as with any other aspect of writing, they should be used mindfully. Below is a list of when you should and should not resort to bullet points.
|❌ Do not use bullet points||✅ Use bullet points|
|To outline processes (prefer numbered lists)||To list facts|
|To explain your reasoning (it is a blog post, not a list of system requirements)||To list data|
|-||To list options|
Do not punctuate bullet points unless each item is a full sentence.
If bullet point items are followed by a description, use a colon after the heading and capitalize the description. For example,
- Item 1: Description 1
- Item 2: Description 2
For bullet points, try to stick to the “six-pack” rule: no more than six bullets, each made up of six words or less.
Bulleted list checklist
When you find yourself creating a list of bullet points, go through this checklist:
- Do all bullet points belong together?
- Check that all the elements in the list are logically connected.
- Do I have more three or more bullet points, but less than six?
- Readers get lost when reading long lists; at the same time, if you have less than three elements to list, is it necessary to use bullet points?
- Are all bullet points shorter than three lines of text?
- Bullet points should not be used as section headers. If you have excessively long bullet points, consider breaking up the list into several subsections.
- Is punctuation consistent?
- End all elements of a bulleted list with a period if each element is a full sentence; do not add any punctuation if you are just listing nouns or parameters.
- Do all bullet points start with the most important word we want the reader to remember?
- Make sure the “head” of your bullet point is not hiding after a long circumlocution.
- Do all bullet points start with the same part of speech?
- If your bullet points start with verbs, make sure all verbs are in the same mood/tense.